Trinity students marched in the seventh annual March for Choice today to advocate for abortion access across Ireland. Today marks the first March for Choice following the repeal of the Eighth Amendment in May, in which voters called to remove Ireland’s ban on abortion from the constitution.
Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU), the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), and students from across the country marched as a bloc this afternoon in calls for free, safe, and legal abortions. Students gathered in Trinity’s Front Square before the march, where Northern Irish students spoke about the restriction of terminations in Northern Ireland.
Speaking to Trinity News, TCDSU President Shane De Rís outlined that the march this year had a “special focus” on Northern Ireland, where abortion services are banned. “Although the fight to repeal the Eighth Amendment has been won, the battle for women’s reproductive rights rages on,” said De Rís.
“It is important that we recognise that even with the success of the Repeal campaign, not everyone who needs access to abortion care on this island will be able to avail of it, and that we must continue to fight in solidarity with those in the North for their rights,” De Rís continued.
Students joined activists at the Garden of Remembrance at 2pm before marching down O’Connell Street, along the quays, and across the city to Merrion Square.
Speaking to Trinity News, USI Vice-President for Equality and Citizenship Aisling Cusack emphasised the “different feel” to this year’s March for Choice in contrast to previous years. “We can march knowing we had a momentous win in the May referendum but the reality is that people in Ireland are still having to travel for abortion access this very day,” said Cusack.
The referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment passed in May with a 66.4% Yes vote. While the Yes result allows the Oireachtas to pass laws to regulate terminations, abortion remains illegal in Ireland until new legislation is enacted.
Proposed legislation would allow for termination in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities where the foetus is unlikely to survive to or after birth, or where there is a risk to the life or of serious harm to the health of the pregnant person.
Cusack explained that students are also marching in solidarity with those in the North unable to access abortion. “At least three people have to travel or take safe, but illegal, abortion pills in the North of Ireland every single day,” said Cusack. “[We are] marching for these people, as well as the people who have travelled in the past and who are still travelling now.”
Among those making speeches was Queen’s University Belfast Students’ Union (QUBSU) Equality and Diversity Officer, Hamsavani Rajeswaren, who outlined that the groups most “affected and vulnerable” by abortion laws are minorities, including refugees and asylum seekers. Speaking to Trinity News at the march, QUBSU Welfare Officer, Sinéad Henry, outlined the impact of Northern Irish governance on abortion laws, particularly in relation to Westminster and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
The referendum asked voters whether the Eighth Amendment, which was inserted into the constitution in 1983 with additions made in 1992, should be replaced with the text: “Provision may be made by law for the regulation of termination of pregnancy.”
All but one constituency, Donegal, voted in favour of repealing of the Eighth Amendment.
Additional reporting by Eliza Meller.